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The Alamo (2004)

Stand your ground.

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 137 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Overblown battle epics have been clogging up our cinemas ever since the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ flick breathed new life into the genre. This past couple of years alone, Hollywood has churned out Master and Commander, The Last Samurai, King Arthur, Troy and Hidalgo, as well as parts two and three of Pete Jackson’s award-sweeping tribute to Tolkien. Add to that the semi-revival of the Western, brought about by the moderate success of Open Range and The Missing, and you have yourself the context for this latest attempt at dramatising the events of 1836 at ‘The Alamo’.

A sprawling, bloated, bore of a movie, the running time alone turns this from a bad film into a painful one. It’s the tale of what happened when a small band of Texans (both American and Mexican) were besieged by nearly 2000 Mexican soldiers at an abandoned mission on the outskirts of San Antonio. Among the hardy few are legendary dead-animal-wearer Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton), bestubbled knife-lover Jim Bowie (Jason Patric) and stiff-as-a-board colonel William Travis (Patrick Wilson). And, if there’s any element of the story that can be dragged out for all its worth, you can bet your best racoon’s tail hat that director John Lee Hancock is on the case.

Relentless in its dullness, this is a film that puts so much effort into the precision of its battle scenes and accuracy of its costumes that if forgets to provide us with the most basic element of any dramatic picture: entertainment. With the one exception of Thornton’s potato-hating Crockett, the characters are a shallow bunch, devoid of interest and completely one-dimensional. Dennis Quaid joins in as the liquor-lovin’ General Sam Houston and, though his character perhaps shows more potential than most of the others, he’s rarely seen until the climax – by which point you’ll be doing well simply to be still paying attention.

This dismal production was originally scheduled for release at Christmas 2003, but failed dismally at test screenings and it’s taken until now for Hancock to re-jig it into something unfortunately deemed worthy of public viewing. I can only pity the poor sods who had to sit through the first version – this one’s bad enough.

It's Got: A cannonball’s eye view of an aerial attack.

It Needs: To get a bloody move on and excite us.


The Ala-slow, more like.